The relationship between alcohol consumption and dry eye

Morten Schjerven Magno, Tishelle Daniel, Mathias Kaurstad Morthen, Harold Snieder, Nomdo Jansonius, Tor P. Utheim, Christopher J. Hammond, Jelle Vehof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To assess the association between dry eye disease (DED) and alcohol consumption using a large population-based cohort. Methods: 77,145 participants (19–94 years, 59% female) from the Dutch Lifelines cohort were cross-sectionally assessed for DED using the Women's Health Study (WHS) dry eye questionnaire. Alcohol intake was assessed using self-reported food frequency questionnaires. The relationship between DED and alcohol use was analyzed using logistic regression, corrected for age, sex, BMI, smoking status, education, income, and 55 potentially confounding comorbidities. Results: Overall, 30.0% of participants had symptomatic dry eye. Alcohol use significantly increased the risk of symptomatic dry eye in females (odds ratio [OR] 1.095, 95%CI 1.045–1.148), but not in males (OR 0.988, 95%CI 0.900–1.084). Contrarily, in male drinkers, increasing alcohol intake (in 10 g/day) had a protective effect on symptomatic dry eye (OR 0.962, 95%CI 0.934–0.992), which was not seen in females (OR 0.986, 95%CI 0.950–1.023). Alcohol use and intake had a sex-specific effect on all outcomes of DED assessed: symptomatic dry eye, highly symptomatic dry eye, clinical diagnosis, and WHS definition dry eye. Conclusions: This large population-based study found alcohol use to have a clear sex-specific effect on DED, presenting as a risk-factor only in females. This adds to the evidence of sex-specific pathophysiological mechanisms of dry eye and illustrates the importance of sex stratification in studies investigating DED. The mild protective effect of increased alcohol intake in male drinkers is advised to be interpreted with caution, as alcohol's other health effects might be of greater clinical significance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-95
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Alcohol
  • Dry eye
  • Lifelines
  • Sex differences
  • Tear film


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